On October 23rd, at 8:00 in the morning, a group of UC Merced students and faculty workers came together on the corner of N. Lake and Bellevue, holding signs and using a microphone to have their voices heard by passing drivers, pedestrians, and anyone else who listened. That same day, I was able to interview a few of these protestors in order to understand exactly what they were fighting for. One person I had been able to interview was the coordinator, Bertha Perez. Bertha is a senior custodian for UC Merced, as well as an Executive Board member, and has been a part of the faculty for about four and a half years. This was her second strike, her first was in May 2018.
“We are fighting for the outsourcing of our jobs; we are holding a sympathy strike with our patient care technicians… They are actually trying to take away our step structure, so we’re out here fighting for that… Of course, we welcome students to join us. We have plenty of food, I prepared for a hundred people to be out here. We’re going to continue to strike until we get a fair contract. Our motto is that we will one day longer, one day stronger. We will not settle for anything less that what is liveable wage, and social justice for our workers.”
Besides Bertha, there were other faculty members, as well as students, who had seen the protest and decided to jump in. Socorro, who currently works in the Student Health Center and has been with the UC Merced faculty for only three weeks now, joined in on the protest with a few of her fellow co-workers to help make a difference. “The more help the better, so that we can grow stronger. We’re here for the students… ‘Yes, we can!’”
I interviewed four students, all third-years at UC Merced, who had joined this protest when their classes had finished. Their names were Daniel Arandia Diaz, Brenda Salas, Lizette Hernandez, and Harriet Torres. Here were their thoughts on the subject:
- Daniel: “Us, as a campus, care about the workers, and I’m here to represent the students.”
- Brenda: “We have to stand with our service workers in order to uplift their voices to the UC. In order to not be exploited, we need to be allies with all of the service workers and students. It’s continuously oppressing, and at the end of the day, these service workers are like our parents; they support us always.”
- Lizette: “I’m here to demand that the Rafael Flores investigation to be reopened, for a fair investigation. There was a biased interview conducted where the key witnesses were not questioned, making his termination unfair.”
- Harriet: “Our workers are here for us, and we should be there for them. The workers need our help and we should be here to act upon it.”
These were the kinds of students who joined in on this rally for justice. This is an ongoing protest, and will continue throughout the year. At the moment, there is no set schedule for when this group meets; however, if you happen to see them, they invite you to join them and help them with their cause. Anyone is welcomed, from students to staff members, to have their voices heard loud and clear.
To learn more and become involved, contact the labor commissioner at Ucmlaborcommissioner@gmail.com.
Photo Credit: Jody Omlin.